Tim Challies recently posted a short article about Bible memorization. It is a helpful reminder that it is important not only to read the Bible, but to internalize it. Over the past few years, I have tried different methods like using 3×5 notecards and memorizing verses topically, or trying to memorize paragraphs at a time. One of the most helpful techniques I learned is outlined in this article.
The article breaks down Scripture memorization in several ways:
- memorizing books and chapters, rather than topically,
- memorizing one verse a day,
- and reviewing the verses you’ve memorized every day.
This system makes it possible for you to systematically memorize bigger chunks of the Bible, and with enough patience, even books! A major strength of this system is that the more you memorize, the better context you have for a particular section or book. For example, after memorizing Ephesians or Philippians, you will have a greater grasp of the breadth of the particular letter, as well as an understanding of how the letter develops. This is difficult when you only learn particular verses.
The challenges to this system are the same as any system of memorization: time and energy. Bible memorization costs us all time and energy. But the value it brings outweighs the sacrifice. And when you step back and look at life, there are a lot of things you likely do not have a second thought about having to memorize. Entire song lyrics. Movie quotes. Sports statistics. I know that the teens at my church can quote word-for-word just about any popular song that I mention. We all put our energy in memorizing something.
So what are you memorizing?
Memorization. For some it’s a four-letter word. Whether the subject is Spanish or Biology or History, memorization is both the key and the crux. And if you’re in seminary like me, memorization is a word that’s not going away any time soon.
Thankfully, I’ve found Mental Case. Mental Case is a digital flashcard application for Mac OS X and the iPhone that really simplifies the process of memorization.
Carrying ALL Your Cards
One of the challenges that I have run into with regular 3×5 flashcards is that I often don’t have them with me. There are a lot of situations where I’m left with five to ten minutes of free time, but without the flashcards to study. For example, if I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, it’d be nice to be able to flip through a few flashcards while I wait, but I’d have to carry them around all the time. Or if I’m out on an errand and get stuck waiting, I’d like to be able to redeem that time.
That’s one of the major benefits of Mental Case. Since I have an iPhone everywhere I go, I can have my flashcards with me as well. And while 300 physical Hebrew flashcards would become very cumbersome very quickly, I carry my iPhone like it’s an additional body-part (which may not be a good thing). So instead of having to decide between carrying some of my Hebrew cards or some of my Greek cards, I can carry all of them and still be able to fit my lip balm in my pocket (which is good because I’m addicted to my Burt’s Bees).
There’s another great benefit that I’ve found with the Mental Case iPhone client. If I were using physical cards, I would probably have to make them myself. And although that can be a good way of learning content, sometimes it can be too time-consuming to be worthwhile. But Mental Case for the iPhone has a feature called “Exchange” (not to be confused with the mail server). Exchange lets you search the website Flashcard Exchange for sets of flashcards that other people have created. For example, there was a set of vocabulary cards for the Hebrew grammar that I was using, so I didn’t have to create them myself.
Mental Case for OS X is $29.99 ($19.99 for students and teachers). Mental Case for the iPhone is $2.99. In upcoming posts, I’ll cover Mental Case’s features in more depth.
Wes Molebash’s comic Max vs. Max follows the amusingly-relateable life of average Christian guy Max as he figures life out. The latest comic is apropos considering my last post about how God giving us his words is an act of grace.
Check it out.
It’s amazing go me how often I can miss the forest for the trees. This is especially true when it comes to actually noticing God’s grace at work in my life. I was reading Psalm 119 because that’s where I am in the ESV Daily Reading Plan. And I came across verse 29.
“Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!” (Psalm 119:29, ESV)
It struck me that David would describe God’s act of teaching him the law as gracious. When I think of Moses bringing the Ten Commandments to Israel, my first thought of how gracious God is being. And when I read my Bible, I’m usually thinking, “time to get my Bible reading in,” not, “time to receive God’s grace.” Of all the ways that I think of how God gives us grace, I wasn’t considering God’s graciousness in giving his law, his words.
But God gave us words like this:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
And words like this:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV)
God has given us a wealth of his words so that we may know about ourselves and ultimately about him. God has given us his law, his words graciously! What seems so ordinary as a Bible is a gigantic mark of God’s unmerited favor. And I am grateful.
JR Vassar, a pastor in New York, has a challenging and encouraging post on authentic pastoring. The basic summary of the article is that we can be great pastors, at least in terms of outward effectiveness, and still fail to be good disciples of Christ.
It’s a challenging article because it seems that doing the work of ministry can very easily eclipse my focus on loving and pursuing Jesus. Especially when the payoff is tangible (e.g. finishing an announcement video, sending an email, completing a project) or the project it urgent (e.g. the youth room caught on fire), ministry work can encroach upon the time I should be spending in prayer or in the word.
It’s an encouragement that I’m not the only person that feels this tension.